ZAHID SEMPALA: A ray of hope for Ugandans who have suffered at the hands of banks

Businessmen Hamis Kiggundu and social activist Zahid Sempala (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Businessmen Hamis Kiggundu and social activist Zahid Sempala (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA – It is a public secret that many Ugandans have suffered at the hands of financial institutions being untouchable even when they have committed several acts of gross fraud namely but not limited to unauthorized or forceful debiting of customers’ accounts. Several people have gone ahead to even open up criminal charges which have gone to limbo and in the end, the victims are left without a solution but only for depression and death as several have even thought of committing suicide. But why?

Are financial institutions above the law? Are there different laws that govern the operation and existence of financial institutions that give them the mandate to debit clients’ accounts without the authority and knowledge of account holders?

Fast forward this brings me to the case that many Ugandans who have suffered at the hands of financial institutions are looking up to for redemption, bank of Uganda and the financial intelligence authority have seemingly not done much to protect the wanainchi in such scenarios as we have witnessed a number of people who even went ahead and took the wars to Twitter and Facebook in a bid to publish these vices so as they would have their monies refunded that is after complaining to the banks, in vain.

Seemingly CID Head Quarters has continued to receive complaints against some banks involved in acts of fraud of this nature, however, all hope is in the Judiciary as the last resort because the Judiciary holds the key to bringing an end to these kinds of injustices and illegalities by heavily pronouncing themselves with heavy penalties against these financial institutions which will deter them from similar acts in future.

The case that is keeping every Ugandan on tenterhooks and the ray of hope we all have is the case of Hamis Kiggundu Vs Diamond Trust Bank. Mr Hammis Kiggundu commonly known as Ham filed a suit against Diamond Trust Bank referred to as DTB in 2020 for recovery of monies unlawfully debited in excess of UGX 120 Billion from his accounts which were done over a period of 10 years. Ham got judgement in his favour at the High Court which was welcomed with a lot of jubilation among the wanainchi who eventually realized that even banks would be brought to book and actually made to vomit big in the event they debited or withdrew funds from customers’ accounts without authorization or through fraud. This was however short-lived as the decision of Justice Ruby Opio Aweri was halted administratively by the principal Judge until an Appeal was filed.

DTB appealed the said decision to the Court of Appeal which heard the Appeal but did not pronounce itself on the most pertinent questions before it mainly pertaining to the aspects of illegality on the part of DTB, which prompted a further appeal to the Supreme Court on grounds that the court of appeal failed to address the substantial issue of illegality as rightfully ruled at High court since DTB admitted the same.

Ham made an application for judgement on admission on November 23, 2021, as DTB and its lawyers additionally at the Supreme Court admitted the failure of the court of appeal to address the substantial point of illegality in their submission.

Ham’s case is one of a kind because it has far-reaching consequences on the wanainchi who have suffered at the hands of banks and this is a question that the public is eagerly waiting for the highest court in Uganda to pronounce itself upon.

Courts of law have previously pronounced themselves on several important aspects in relation to Customer-Bank (financial institutions) relations which were always affecting the wanainchi for example; The charging of exorbitant interest rates over and above the legally accepted or mandated interest rates by financial institutions and money lending companies, the aspect of sale of mortgaged property without following the legally established procedures, the aspect of fraudulently selling off mortgaged property at very low rates below market value, the aspect of declaring transactions entered into by money lending companies without valid operational licenses as illegal among others.

Notably, courts also settled the vice of money lenders hiding away from borrowers at the time of payment of an instalment (mostly the final instalment) so it would seem as though the borrowers deliberately defaulted on payment.

This was a major vice that grossly affected many borrowers and many people lost their property as a result of this until courts of law pronounced themselves on the same and provided an alternative where a borrower would deposit money at court in the event a money lender or someone whom one owes is trying to be unreachable or where you are unable to physically access them to pay their monies.

This saved many Ugandans from losing their property as a result of deliberate hiding by a money lender.

In the same vain, Ugandans are eagerly looking up to the supreme court to pronounce itself on the aspects of illegality admitted by DTB and its lawyers in as far as they operated contrary to sections 4 and 117 of the Financial Institutions Act (2004) an illegality they committed and admitted in High court record upon which facts judgement was entered in Ham’s favour and hence prompting an appeal to the court of Appeal and further to the supreme court.

Therefore since courts are a creature of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda which is the supreme law of the land from which even the judiciary derives its power, authority and existence, further judicial power is derived from the people and is expected to be exercised by the courts established under the constitution in the name of the people and in conformity with the law and the values, norms and aspirations of the people.

We call upon the Justices of the Supreme Court to make a decision that will stand the test of time, and be in conformity with the law because the wanainchi (people) are the eventual victims of whatever decision that shall be pronounced. The ray of hope for Ugandans lies in your hands.


The writer, Zahid Sempala, is a Spokesperson for Hustlers Movement, a Ugandan social group 

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